Meet Nana at Lund University in Sweden!
Name: Nana Usami
University: Lund University
Degree Title (Major/Minor): BSc Physical Geography and Ecosystem Analysis
Current Year of Study: 1st year
How did you choose your university destination and course of study?
Sweden is one of the most sustainable countries in the world and since I wanted to pursue my university studies in a field related to environmental science, I thought Sweden would be a perfect choice to study the subject. Lund University has an English 3-years program called “Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science” which is such a unique course since you get to study physical geography and environmental science at the same time. One of the many reasons I chose this subject (and the reason why I love this course now) is because I saw that this course has so much field work (hands-on learning) during those 3 years.
What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?
As I mentioned above, there are many field works / excursions! It depends on the course you will be studying but the first course “Introduction to Physical Geography” had three whole-day excursions and a week of field work. During those excursions, we went around Skåne, a region in Southern Sweden. During the field work week, we learned how to use basic equipment used for field sampling in physical geography such as: leveling devices, GPS devices, inclinometers, etc. I’m currently part of the last course of my first year, which is “Ecosystem Analysis” and we will have a week-long excursion to an island called Öland next week! We will split up in groups and collect field data for our term-end presentations.
What do you enjoy most about living in Lund?
Lund is such a small, compact city that I at first couldn’t believe that it is an actual city but you have everything you need. Though it is pretty far from Stockholm, I love how Malmö, the third biggest city in Sweden is only 15 minutes away by train and Copenhagen is only 40 minutes away by train from Lund. Whenever I want some change in the environment, I can just take a train to Malmö or Copenhagen very easily.
I’m not sure if it’s only for Lund but here we have a special time system called “academic quarter”. This means that the schedule / classes will start 15 minutes after the said time, so if the time schedule says the lecture is from 10 AM, it will actually start at 10:15 and not 10:00 sharp. The reason why I love this system is because you have extra time to catch up with your classmates before class or even take more time to get ready to go to campus (and I love how you can totally use this as an excuse for being late here!).
In Lund University, there are lots of student boards or student unions you can actively take part in. This helped me get to know my classmates as well as other students in my department who I would’ve never known if I didn’t join the board and union. There is also a student circle called “nation” in Lund. Nation offers many events and restaurants where you can eat lunch / dinner for such an affordable price!
There is a culture called “fika” in Sweden which has no definite translation but most of the Swedes translate as “coffee time with friends”. In Lund University, there are many board meetings and small gatherings where fika is necessary. Fika is part of our body and we can’t live without fika. My first day of university also started with fika prepared by my teachers. Whenever someone gets tired with group work, they always ask if we can go have fika. Overall, I really feel that my study environment is much more stress-free and student-friendly than I expected it to be.
How supportive is your university to international students and, in particular, during the pandemic?
Lund University is the top choice university for international students in Sweden. My expectation was high knowing this, but they have been much more supportive than I expected. They have an “Arrival Day” where students called international mentors greet you at the Copenhagen airport and guide you to Lund. They were all very kind, telling me how to buy train tickets, handing me my accommodation key, setting up my student account, and arranging transportation to my accommodation – all in a day. Following the arrival day, we had “Orientation Weeks” where newly admitted students can be sorted into so-called “Mentor Groups”. It is a group with 10-20 new students and 2-5 current LU students (mentors). The faculty of Science, where I belong, has a welcome week for new Science students called “Novisch Period”, which is a 2.5 week long period filled with lots of fun events.
Regarding the pandemic, I was surprised how Sweden is always very quick to take down the restrictions and implement new restrictions when necessary. When I was still in Bali, and my friends were still not sure if they could fly to their university country, I was already 100% sure that I would fly to Lund and start my studies right away because Sweden took down restrictions for higher education very quickly. I’m very grateful for this because I didn’t have to spend my first year online and actually was able to learn physically in Lund especially for the fieldwork / excursion part.
What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university?
- Long dark winter: Since I was in Bali where it is summer the entire year, my first Scandinavian winter was a huge challenge for me. I was told that it doesn’t snow in Lund but it snowed a lot last winter, even my Swedish classmates were surprised. I currently live in LU accommodation and there is a central heating system but it didn’t turn on until the middle of November, when it was already super cold and I had to run to IKEA to get an extra warm duvet. The daylight time is also short during winter. In December the sun rises at 8:30 AM and sets around 3:00 PM. Being alone during the winter can be depressing so I tried to have as much fika as possible with my friends and that helped me a lot!
- I honestly can’t think of any other challenges I’ve faced during my time here other than the long Nordic winter! I’m really enjoying it here!
What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?
- Student board: In my first year, I was elected for a position called “student safety officer”, a position where you take care of the study environment and take in students’ opinions on improvements to the study environment. As a student safety officer, we also have to be open for any personal consultation from students and guide them to a service where they feel safe. We had a meeting once a month and each student safety officer must attend a seminar on basic how-to’s. I haven’t decided whether I would like to be part of the student board next academic year since you get pretty busy, but it was definitely worth it.
- Novisch Period mentor: As mentioned before, the faculty of Science has a welcome week for new Science students called “Novisch Period”, which is a 2.5 week long week filled with lots of fun events. Since I regret not being able to join most of the events last year, I thought I could apply to become a mentor instead! It’s indeed very difficult to explain in writing, but the faculty of Science is split into teams, according to your major. Along with my classmates (team mates), we’re organizing different kinds of ice-breaking games for students coming to Lund this summer so I might see you there during the Novisch Period if you’re starting your studies in the faculty of Science this summer!
- Lundakarnevalen: This year is such an exciting year for everyone (especially students) in Lund because there will be a carnival held once every 4 years! Lundakarnevalen 2022 will be held from the 20th to the 22nd of May 2022 and most of the people I know are taking part in preparing the carnival. The entire city will change into a festival / amusement park-like façade for those 3 days! There will be parades, live performances, restaurants, circus, games, etc. These will all be organized by Lund University students! The previous carnival back in 2018 was said to have around 5,000 students helping the carnival and 40,000 people have visited the carnival! I’m taking part in the parade section, in which we have to build our train (parade) according to our themes and go around Lund with the train during the carnival days.
How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?
The accommodation is guaranteed for all non-EU students who have made the accommodation application in time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the first choice but I got my second choice and honestly, I don’t think there is any other accommodation that is better than the one I have now so I’m very satisfied! I currently live in a studio flat with a private bathroom / shower and a private kitchen. I like how my dining room and bedroom are separated by a door because it helps me concentrate whenever I have to study or work on my assignments.
For students from EU countries, you have no accommodation guarantee so you will have to find accommodation yourself. Since most of my classmates are from Europe, I hear so many stories about how difficult it is to find accommodation. There are Facebook groups for finding accommodation or you can try applying for LU accommodation but the chance is very low since everyone will be applying for it. Even though it is difficult to find an accommodation in Lund, I never heard of someone who doesn’t have an accommodation yet so it might take some time but it is definitely not impossible to find something.
Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working word and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?
Since I’m still in my first year, I’m not very sure but I already feel that the university is very supportive with inspiring students how to use the degree in the future. We often have guest lecturers who tell us how they used their physical geography degree in what they do for a living now and what inspired them to do what they enjoy.
Because of the very active time schedule with all those field works and excursions, I’m very confident when it comes to collecting data in the field as I’m already used to using professional equipment through hands-on learning experience. We also learned how to use computing software for statistical analysis for research, which I believe is crucial for students aiming to work in the research field so I already feel much better prepared compared to the beginning of the first year.
Lund University does support finding jobs and internships as I receive an invitation for related seminars. I haven’t joined any of them yet but I believe it is very helpful since even the guest lecture in my program is already very inspiring.
LU also has a business start-up support center called VentureLab. They have an incubator (lab) where you can develop your ideas and, if you apply for the program there, you will get your space in the office where you can work on your business plan. I recently had a private consultation session with them and it was very helpful to hear their thoughts and advice on my future business plan. If you ever heard of a minimalistic helmet, the one with a cushion blowing out once they sense you falling down, it was invented here in Lund University!
What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?
The biggest advantage of choosing Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science is that all the excursions in the first course made me feel that I had explored the entire Skåne region because we went to a lot of places from beaches to national parks, so I didn’t have to use my weekends and vacations to explore those regions.
There is another city called Helsingborg near Lund and you can go there easily by train. There is an LU campus there so some students commute to Lund from Helsingborg. Helsingborg is more historical and very different compared to Malmö so I consider it a good place to visit during weekends along with Malmö and Copenhagen. You can easily take a ferry from Helsingborg and go to Helsingør, a little city in Denmark with a castle that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, is 4 hours away by the bullet train. I never tried a day trip to Stockholm but I believe it is possible. I visited Stockholm with my classmates in February right after our exam since we had a few days break.
In our program we had an easter holiday for 10 days last month so I went to the Netherlands to reunite with my best friends! I was able to attend one of my best friends’ graduation ceremony there, which turned out to be such a great memory.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to Lund – and Sweden – to study?
- Get warm winter clothes and rain jackets! I totally underestimated the weather here in Sweden, it changes frequently and suddenly. There are very strong winds in Lund, sometimes up to 40 km/h wind speed! In that case an umbrella is not a good choice because I already broke three umbrellas during my first year so I strongly recommend getting rain jackets with windproof effects! It is also important to get good winter clothes because I never expected my central heating system to only finally turn on in the middle of the winter. When I say winter clothes, I mean high-quality winter clothes, especially clothes you can layer and winter coats jackets. I use a jacket from Patagonia and it kept me warm through the first winter in Sweden.
- Join the welcome week for newly admitted students. I really regret not joining any of those since I had a week-long self-quarantine and I was far behind my classmates with settling into Lund. My classmates already got along with each other during those welcome weeks and even though they were very friendly, I wish I had joined the welcome weeks so I could’ve known them better earlier. Not only your classmates, but you can meet other students studying in the same faculty or even students from different faculties.
- Choose Lund! I’m honestly very happy that I chose this university because overall the study environment, Lund, and Sweden as a whole really suits me as a person. Lund is quite slow-paced which I love because it reminds me of Bali where no one is in a rush and they’re living at their own pace. Lund is such a pretty city; the four different seasons in Lund are just very beautiful and the historical architecture of Lund gives warmth to the city. I expected university life to be very stressful but it is not that stressful so far, I’m able to have so much fun outside studies. Teachers are very supportive and it was such a shock to know that students call teachers with their first names only and no titles. I heard this is because Swedes don’t like having some sort of a hierarchy and prefer to stand equal with anyone. A bonus point about living in Lund is that Lund is very close to bigger cities such as: Malmö, Helsingborg, and Copenhagen. You can easily go to these cities whenever you want a change in the environment. Thus, traveling outside Sweden is also very easy if you live in Lund!